ABC's Muir Hypes Race as Over: It's 'Slipping Away' and Debate is 'Do-or-Die' for Romney

ABC's David Muir on Thursday hyped the presidential election as "slipping away" from Mitt Romney and pushed the idea that next week's presidential debate is "do-or-die" for the Republican.

Talking to the candidate, Muir pressed, "I'm curious what you would say to some of your supporters tonight, your donors who might be concerned this could be slipping away?" [See video below. MP3 audio here.] Trying ro raise expectations for the former governor, Muir insisted, "In fact, some are already calling [the October 3 presidential] debate a do-or-die moment."

In 2008, ABC and George Stephanopoulos declared Barack Obama and Joe Biden the winner in four out of four presidential and vice presidential debates. So, it seems likely that ABC might be gearing up for more of a "die" moment and less "do."

Muir focused on Republican unease, demanding Romney respond to criticism of his campaign: "But about those critics within your own party? Will there be changes at the top? Are you doing anything wrong?"  

A transcript of the September 27, which aired at 7:07am EDT, can be found below:

7:01am tease

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You see Mitt Romney in Ohio right there. It's all about Ohio right now. Mitt Romney behind. He's got to come back. And take a look at this picture right here: Just releasing in Time magazine. Mitt Romney like we've never really seen before. That was back when he was in France as a missionary, but remembering his love back home. We'll look at that in a little bit as well.

AMY ROBACH: All the way back from the 1960s.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The race for the White House now. Your voice, your vote. With 40 days to go and President Obama has opened up his biggest lead yet in Gallup's daily poll, six points. That puts more pressure than ever on Mitt Romney. And David Muir had the chance to talk to him late yesterday in Ohio. Good morning, David.

DAVID MUIR: Hey there, George. And that Gallup daily tracking poll is going to be a real concern for the Romney campaign, because that's the poll they've been pointing to try to make the case that this is still a head-heat race. But as you point out, the President taking the lead in that poll as well. We did ask the governor about these poll numbers, just as a new ad comes out this morning from the President, trying to keep that lead.

BARACK OBAMA: Read my plan.

MUIR: This morning, a new and rare two minute pitch. A new ad from President Obama up in 7 battleground states as he tries to shape the final weeks of this quickly-shifting race.

OBAMA: There will be debates, speeches and more ads. But if I could sit down with you in your living room or around the kitchen table, here is what I'd say.

MUIR: It comes as the President is buoyed by strong poll numbers in crucial states, Ohio and Florida. We asked Governor Romney about the President's ten point lead here in Ohio. I'm curious what you would say to some of your supporters tonight, your donors who might be concerned this could be slipping away?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, I'm very pleased with some polls, less so with other polls. But, frankly, at this early stage, polls go up, polls go down.

MUIR: But many argue this is hardly early and some fellow Republicans fear these new polls are just now reflecting how voters are reacting to that video of Romney in front of wealthy donors, describing the 47 percent of Americans who he says see themselves as victims.

ROMNEY: So, my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them.

MUIR: Looking to halt the damage, the Romney campaign also out with a new ad. Romney and his own direct appeal.

ROMNEY: President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families. The difference is my policies will make things better for them.

MUIR: And as Romney goes on defense, we asked him about the criticism from fellow Republicans about his campaign. But about those critics within your own party? Will there be changes at the top? Are you doing anything wrong?

ROMNEY: There are critics and there are cheerleaders. We have people of all different persuasion. And, frankly-

MUIR: So, no changes?

ROMNEY: Well, every day, there's improvements and new messages that come out.

MUIR: But Romney's moment to redefine the conversation less than a week away. Pressure now building for Romney to perform on that debate stage against the president. You've been practicing. Any nerves?

ROMNEY: I don't worry about the opportunity to be on the air and to face the president. He has his views. I have mine.

MUIR: The governor saying he's ready. In fact, some are already calling that debate a do-or-die moment. But I want to take you back to that image, George, at the top of the broadcast this morning. Back from the '60s. You can see the governor there, then a young man. Etching into the sand there "I love Ann," missing his girlfriend back in the states. A powerful image. And, you know, sums up what the Romney campaign is really trying to do at this point, George, which is to show a more empathetic side to this candidate. In fact, at every stop here in Ohio and today in Virginia, you expect the governor to talk about he understands what Americans are going through. A real push in the final weeks before election day.   

-- Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.